By Dr. David Woo - February 12, 2021
It is estimated that between 10 and 15 percent of women develop postpartum depression, which is the onset of depression symptoms in women after having a baby.(1) Postpartum depression is treatable and has traditionally been treated with antidepressants and talk therapy. Many new mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression are reluctant to take antidepressants because of the risk that their child will be exposed to the medication through breastfeeding.
Although this risk has been proven to be minor, there is an alternative treatment option.(2) Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a medication free noninvasive treatment option for major depression that can also help women diagnosed with postpartum depression.
Initial Research Efforts Show that TMS Relieves Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Multiple studies show that TMS can provide safe and effective treatment for women with postpartum depression. A recent study published in 2020 explored the effects of rTMS in women diagnosed with postpartum disorder. In this study, six women diagnosed with postpartum depression were given 20 sessions of rTMS over the course of four weeks. The severity of their depression and anxiety symptoms was observed each week during treatment, three months after treatment completion, and six months after treatment completion, using various psychiatric rating scales and cognitive assessments.
Of the six women who participated in this study, four of them achieved remission according to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), the most commonly used screening tool used to identify depression in new mothers. According to the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), a patient questionnaire that measures the severity of depression symptoms, only one patient achieved remission and two responded to treatment. Assessment scores for the patients’ depression symptoms continued to be below entry levels three and six months after treatment completion.
These results showed that TMS improved depression symptoms in women diagnosed with postpartum depression, even six months after treatment completion, and was safe for women who were breastfeeding.(3)
The results of the study published in 2020 are aligned with the results from previous studies that observed the effects of TMS in women with postpartum depression. One study published in 2016 observed the effects of eight weeks of TMS treatment in women with postpartum depression. Out of 19 women who completed treatment, 14 (73.7%) achieved remission.(4)
Another study published in 2012 showed similar results. During this study, participants were randomly assigned to active TMS treatment or sham (placebo) TMS treatment for four weeks. After just two weeks of treatment, patients who received active TMS showed significant improvement in depression symptoms.(5)
Finally, a study in 2010 observed the effects of four weeks of TMS treatment on nine women with postpartum depression. Eight out of the nine women who participated in this study achieved remission, and seven of the eight women who achieved remission remained in remission six months after treatment completion.(6)
Do You Have Signs of Postpartum Depression?
If you or a loved one shows signs or symptoms of postpartum depression, and are interested in learning more about TMS, please contact us.
1. Liberto TL. Screening for Depression and Help-Seeking in Postpartum Women During Well-Baby Pediatric Visits: An Integrated Review. J Pediatr Health Care. 2012;26(2):109-117. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22360930/. Accessed January 14, 2021.
2. Berle JO, Spigset O. Antidepressant Use During Breastfeeding. Curr Womens Health Rev. 2011;7(1):28-34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267169/#:~:text=Infant%20exposure%20of%20antidepressants%20through,likely%20suitable%20first%2Dline%20agents. Accessed January 14, 2021.
3. Cox EQ, Killenberg S, Frische R, et al. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of postpartum depression. J Affect Disord. 2020;264:193-200. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32056750/. Accessed January 11, 2021.
4. Brock DG, Demitrack M, Groom P, and Holbert R. Effectiveness of NeuroStar transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in patients with major depressive disorder with postpartum onset. 2016:9(5):e7. Brain Stimulation. https://www.brainstimjrnl.com/article/S1935-861X(16)30159-0/fulltext. Accessed January 13, 2012.
5. Myczkowski ML, Dias AM, Luvisotto T, et al. Effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on clinical, social, and cognitive performance in postpartum depression. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2012;8:491-500. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3484900/. Accessed January 13, 2021.
6. Garcia KS, Flynn P, Pierce KJ, and Caudle M. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treats postpartum depression. Brain Stimul. 2010;3(1):36-41. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20633429/. Accessed January 12, 2021.